Health: Did you know?

Did you know…

That in their recent submission to the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health, the AMA listed mental health as one of the ‘two weakest links in the Australian health care system’, the other being indigenous health?

Did you know that the sector of the public health system dealing with mental health problems has become residual in nature? Now, as a result of a policy decision made in the early 1990s, only those with very ‘serious’ mental health problems are cared for. There are now only very limited opportunities for early intervention for mental health problems within the public system.

Did you also know that there is a large shortage of dedicated mental health beds within public hospitals across Australia? This has meant that many with mental health problems are cared for in other sections of hospitals, such as emergency departments. These sections are frequently unsuitable for the special needs of patients with mental health problems.

Such issues are more problematic still for those living in rural areas where services are even more restricted. Did you know, for example, that in New South Wales only 5% of psychiatrists work outside of the Sydney CBD?

Many people with a mental illness slip through these gaps in the system and only receive treatment when they come into contact with the forensic system following the commission of a crime. As a result, the public mental health system has become unattractive to prospective psychiatrists, and the number of trainee psychiatrists is falling well short of anticipated demand.

The following are links to some of the over 500 submissions made to the Senate Select Committee on Mental Health in May this year:
AMA submission
Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales submission
Rural Health Alliance submission

Dr Jennifer Smith
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Australian Health Policy Institute
at The University of Sydney

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